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There are few very classic Polish soups that I really like to eat and borscht/beetroot soup is one of my favorites. It’s essential and full of flavor and I sometimes like to drink it from a cup, but in most cases I serve it with little meat dumplings. Some people would say that this soup has some magical powers as a hangover cure, and here is where my husband would definitely concur, but the truth is that beetroots are very healthy and good for you.  Just drinking a glass of beetroot juice (mixed with your favorite fruit or carrot) gives you tons of vitamins and minerals and antioxidants.
With this recipe I prefer to roast them and then cook them for a short amount of time so that they don’t lose all the goodness in the process of boiling.
In the past for many years I would use a premade beetroot concentrate but since I don’t live in Poland anymore and getting that concentrate would mean traveling to a Polish store, which is not really anywhere close to me right now, I decided to make my own. I have done different fermented bases for soup or bread in the past so I figured it shouldn’t be that difficult. I checked a bunch of different Polish websites and blogs and many of them asked for a piece of rye bread, which again is not that easy to find in the States. (American Rye bread is different than Polish Rye.) So I came up with this recipe and called it an experiment. And guess what! It turned out pretty good. So now I always double the ingredients and keep half of the concentrate in a fridge for the next time.
There are also ways to tweak it and change it into a more hearty soup just by adding potatoes and cream and sprinkling with fresh dill.  Or, you can make a completely new soup called Ukrainian borsht by adding green beans, white large peas, cabbage, potatoes and cream, though this particular soup has dozens of other versions that vary from region to region and country to country.
Nevertheless, beetroot soup/borsht is definitely something that would be common in Poland and other Central and Eastern European countries but not necessarily in other countries or continents.  However if you don’t want to prepare a soup there are always other ways to add a beetroot to your lunch and dinner.

Serving: 4
Preparation of the Meat Dumpling: 45 minutes, including resting time of the dough
Cooking Stock: 1h 30min
Roasting Beetroots: 1h 30 minutes
Cooking Beetroot soup: 30 minutes
Cooking Meat Dumplings: 5 minutes
Beetroot Base Concentrate: 7 days of fermentation process
Calories: 430 for 2 ½ cups with 10 dumplings

Ingredients for Beetroot soup (10 cups)
5 medium size beets
1 tablespoon of marjoram
1 clove of garlic
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon of white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon of sugar
½ teaspoon of ground pepper
1 large dry mushroom
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
7 cups of chicken stock (recipe below)
3 cups of beetroot base concentrate recipe below)

Ingredients for Beetroot base concentrate
4lb6oz/2kg of beets
4 cups/1l of water (boiled and cooled down to room temperature)
1 tablespoon of salt
6 cloves of garlic
6 bay leaves
6-10 allspice corns

Ingredients for Stock:
12 cups/3l of water
3 Chicken necks/4 thighs
3 carrots, peeled and quartered
2 parsnips, peeled and quartered
1 celery root, peeled and cut into 4 pieces
½ leek, cleaned and quartered
2 tablespoons of salt
1 clove of garlic, peeled
1 cabbage leaf
1 sprig of parsley
1 large onion, peeled

Ingredients for meat dumplings (makes approx 80 dumplings)
2 cups of flour
½ cup of warm water
Pinch of salt
Filling:
6 dry wild mushrooms,
10 oz/300g of chicken meat, grinded
Salt and pepper for taste

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.
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Clean and brush the beetroots, pat them dry and put them on tin foil on a baking sheet. Roast them for 1h 30 min.
While the beetroots are in the oven you can prepare the chicken stock.
First pour some water in a large pot and put in the meat. Bring it to boil on medium heat and after 30 minutes or so some mush will show up on the surface. Remove it with the spoon and keep boiling on low heat. Once all the mush is out add all the vegetables. Cook on medium-low heat for about 1 hour. 15 minutes before it’s done, roast the onion over an open flame on the kitchen stove or broil in the oven for 5 minutes and add it to the stock. Add salt and pepper for taste at the end.
kolaz stock
Rinse the stock and discard the meat and vegetables. If you are using chicken thighs or any other parts with meat, save them for making a filling for dumplings or pierogi.
Put the rinsed stock back into a large pot.
When the beetroots are roasted, using disposable gloves peel them and quarter them. Add them to the stock. Some people prefer to just add them to the stock and boil them instead of roasting. But I think roasting helps to keep the sweet flavor and the deep dark red color.
Add the 3 cups of beetroot concentrate and bring it to boil on medium heat. Add the white wine vinegar, garlic, bay leaf, sugar and marjoram. Cook it on low heat for 30 more minutes. Let it rest for at least 1 hour. But to tell you the truth it always tastes much better on the second day.
When you will be warming it up again be careful not to bring to boil. Turn the heat off as soon as you see it will reach the boiling point. This would make the soup darken and loose some taste.

Little dumplings with meat/uszka
ingredients
Transfer the flour on the working surface, sprinkle some salt and slowly add the warm water. Start working out the dough and knead it for few minutes. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let it rest for at least 20 minutes to become more flexible.
While the dough is resting make a filling.
grinding
Grind the chicken meat and add some salt and pepper for taste. I like to add some wild mushrooms to it to bring more flavors. If you want to do that soak the mushrooms in warm water at least one hour beforehand. Then grind them together with the chicken.
Cut the dough into 2 parts and start rolling out the first one. Keep the other one in the kitchen towel.
I again like to use my kitchen aid pasta attachment because it saves a lot time. If you are using it as well roll it out to the number 7 size.
kolaz dough and cuts
Cut out little circles with a 2 or 2 ½ inch cookie cutter. Place a little teaspoon of the chicken filling in the middle of each circle.
kolaz folding
Fold it together as if you were making little pierogis. Use a little water to seal both ends better. Then take two opposite ends and fold them together in the middle. You will get a shape of little ears, which is exactly what we call them in Polish.
Repeat the same steps with the second batch of dough.
uszka4
Cover the dumplings with the kitchen towel if you are waiting for the water to boil. You don’t want them to dry out.
Bring some water to boil in a large pot. Add 2 tablespoons of salt.
kolaz boiled dumplings
Transfer the first batch of dumplings to the boiling water. Wait a few seconds until they come to the surface and boil them for 2 more minutes. Take them out with a spider spoon and cook the second batch of the dumplings.
Serve them with the beetroot soup.

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Beetroot Base Concentrate:
Boil the water and let it cool down. Add the salt and mix it, making sure it will dissolve.
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Peel the beetroots, wearing disposable gloves and cut them into small quarters. Put one layer of the beets and then transfer some of the garlic, bay leaves and whole spice. Then make two more layers in a similar way and pour the water into the jar. Keep it in a warm place for up to 7 days, covered with a tablecloth or kitchen towel but don’t seal it with a lid. It will need some air to ferment.
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After a week, rinse the mixture and pour the liquid into a bottle or a smaller jar. Keep it in the fridge if you are not using it on the same day.

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